Prospective homeowners may breathe a sigh of relief in the upcoming months, as Government is moving to subsidise housing further. How affordable? Minister of Housing Dr Roodlal Moonilal is unable to say, but is assuring that the recommendation will be taken to Cabinet before the end of next month. The move, according to Moonilal, is a two-fold initiative geared towards decreasing the cost price of refurbished homes and to also reduce the backlog of names on the waiting list. In an interview with Sunday Guardian last week at the Housing Development Corporation, Moonilal said while a hold was placed on the distribution of houses because of defects in some of the projects, 100,000-plus applicants were on the database of the system which he expected to reduce in the next three months.
"What we have noticed is that the high costs of several of the homes are outside of the reach of the average person. "Some people simply cannot afford the market value of the homes. As a result, Government is looking to provide a further subsidy to assist with the purchasing of homes. "I intend to take a proposal to Cabinet to consider the price reduction of the housing units." Sunday Guardian learnt that approximately 10,000 homes, including defective units, are unoccupied. Under the former administration, a two per cent mortgage rate was introduced for applicants earning a monthly income below $8,000 and seeking to purchase a housing unit not exceeding $450,000.
However, Moonilal pointed out, while the subsidy was implemented to assist applicants purchasing homes, they were still facing challenges to qualify for a substantial mortgage. He explained that some applicants were qualifying for mortgages of $250,000, but the cost of the housing units was almost tripled. "There are homes where persons may qualify for a $250,000 mortgage, but the unit is $750,000; so even if we provide a subsidy and get the applicant to $350,000 house value, we are still dealing with over a $300,000 subsidy on every home. "The pricing of homes is urgently on the agenda to be reviewed. We are suggesting further subsidising, especially on the homes that are defective, to ensure that it becomes within the reach of the average person."
Special attention for emergency cases
And while the minister is proposing to bring cheaper housing for all, he vowed that priority would be given to "special cases." These cases, Moonilal said, would include domestic cases and situations involving children who were being physically and sexually-abused. In addition, the minister said special attention would be given to people who lost their homes in unfortunate circumstances. "We are committed to getting involved in these emergency cases; some of them which involve disputes between spouses and cases where children are being molested. "These cases are going to be treated with urgency. In many of these cases, the victims are still in these abused homes; and if I may add, they have not gone on State lands to erect illegal structures. "We are going to see how best we could assist in matters like these."
Work to resume at Cleaver Heights
Asked what plans were on stream for the controversial Cleaver Heights projects, Moonilal said he intended to tour the site in the next two weeks with a team to assess the construction works. He stressed, however, that the project would continue to ensure that there would not be any further delay in delivery of homes and loss of employment. However, the minister added that he would ensure that the accounting department, together with others at the ministry, is strengthened to avoid a similar "$10-million error." Former prime minister, Patrick Manning had questioned Opposition Leader Dr Rowley, calling on him to account for the discrepancy in the cost of the project. The allegation was raised by former Housing Minister, Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde, but was later dispelled by the Uff Commission of Enquiry that suggested an accounting error was responsible for the discrepancy.